Archbishop: Define marriage as man and woman to green-light partnership act ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Archbishop Urmas Viilma on Wednesday's edition of
Archbishop Urmas Viilma on Wednesday's edition of "Otse uudistemajast". Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) says that a same-sex partnership act mired for nearly five years now could pass, if marriage were to be legally defined as between a man and a woman, as a quid pro quo.

Talking to ERR's Indrek Kiisler on regular politics discussion show "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday, Viilma said that while a referendum like that proposed by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) would be key to in-fixing a social position, it should not be used to alter the constitution.

EKRE has proposed holding the referendum, which would provisionally be a simple yes/no answer to the question should the constitution be amended to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, concurrently with next autumn's local elections.

If a referendum does in any case define marriage as being between a man and a woman, Viilma said the EELK would then not oppose the adoption of the cohabitation act, properly called the Registered Partnership Act.

The latter became law in January 2016 and makes provision for registered partnerships regardless of gender. However, an implementing act required for its provisions to carry legal weight has not yet passed.

Worldview, scriptural issue

Archbishop Viilma also said that the church could not support a definition of marriage as being anything other than between one man and one woman on scriptural grounds, making it a worldview issue.

While the constitution can be changed, scripture cannot, he added.

The EELK and other churches in Estonia had also taken a stance on simplifying the legal process of gender reassignment operations because, Viilma said, the state asked for one and again, this was a worldview issue.

"The council of churches (Kirikute Nõukogu) is regularly involved in the development or amendment of all legislation that affects the public's religious principles. In the case of this law, this situation arises," Viilma said.

Viilma also said the council's reticence over the Registered Partnerships Act stemmed from mistrust over the process which led it to becoming law, which, he said, had seen all the major political parties except the Social Democratic Party (SDE) saying they were not in favor of the act, only to have MPs from various parties voting in favor of it in late 2015.

"There is now the fear that even if political parties say no change should be made to the Family Law Act (which stipulates marriage as a union between a man and a woman - ed.), MPs themselves may go against that.

Viilma added that the constitution notwithstanding, he was in favor of a referendum to decide on the issue.

At the same time, he noted that the constitutional issue was there and was one which the head of state could not ignore even if they liked the principle of a law, an oblique reference to President Kersti Kaljulaid, who is generally seen to be in favor of same sex-partnerships or marriages being made legal.

Viilma: Jõgeva church money news to me

The rest of the "Otse uudistemajast" instalment dealt with a state grant to a Jõgeva Church, which saw €1 million set aside from the state budget for 2021 to build a new church building, currently being debated at the Riigikogu. The churches' registered congregation numbers 44.

Viilma said the EELK had not applied for this money and was at a loss as to how it had been provided and that by the time he got to quiz Chair of the Riigikogu Finance Committee Aivar Kokk (Isamaa) on the issue, the latter said that it was a fait accompli in that the budget had already been rushed through.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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